05 Feb The Worst Thing You Could Do After Recovering From An Injury
I’ve been really hurt before. Unable to walk without wincing pain for weeks, maybe even months. Praying to get out of pain so I didn’t have to suffer anymore.
When I herniated a disc, my mom said:
You’re walking like a duck!
“Thanks mom, but I can’t stop walking like this.”
When I tore my hip labrum from excessive squatting, I was unable to workout for months.
When I was running barefoot in 2010 and started “Barefoot Rehab” because I believed everyone should move as naturally as possible (this belief has evolved since then to involve really good orthotics), it took me years before I could run again without pinching in front of my ankle. Amazingly, I’m still wearing the really good orthotics I got in 2010 today in 2017.
When I tore articular cartilage in my left knee at the last rugby game I ever played, I never thought I’d be able to squat ass-to-grass (or poop without a toilet bowl) ever again. After the inflammation died down months later, I found that I could (thank the Gods – I’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones).
Recently, I’ve begun working out again thanks to the gentle nudging of Coach Chris at Heroes Journey. He deadlifts 315 pounds quickly, so I deadlift the empty barbell three times as slow, mindfully, re-building the foundation of my fitness home with flexibility and coordination.
Coach Chris does eight muscle-ups, throwing his body around the rings with ease. I do 1/3 as many strict pull-ups, carefully controlling the motion so I don’t provoke my bum shoulder. Kind of like I’m doing Water Squats.
I still glute bridge like a champ though. I didn’t even take one pound off compared with what Coach Chris was able to do. Given, I hadn’t deadlifted and fatigued my muscles prior to those bridges like he had. Still, my butt was strong! I digress.
These workouts have left me feeling good and wanting more.
Today, I did some strict pull-ups as Biggy serenaded me. If you’re a non-millennial, think back to whatever music you listened to as a teen that made you feel young and alive and reminisce with me.
Having played a lot of super nintendo and sega genesis as a kid and with youth in my step, it occurred to me:
This is fun. I should do the CrossFit Open with all of the other members at the gym and show them what’s up.
Immediately, the idea for this blog post came to my mind and I remembered what I should be doing in my fitness future.
The worst thing you and I could do after recovering from an injury is this: forget.
If I forget how much pain I was in when I herniated my disc, tore my labrum, impinged my ankle, tore my cartilage, or felt any other of the many injuries I had, I’m likely to do in the future exactly what caused that pain back when in the first place. Each time that I hurt myself, I’m causing more and more irreversible damage to the bones and cartilage of my body, increasing the opportunity for Dr. Curtis, my pain doctor, to fail me and simultaneously increasing risk that I’ll be unable to move as easily as I do now when I turn 60, 70, and 80 years of age.
By remembering, both you and I deliberately choose which path of fitness we get to walk and precisely what the quality of life we will live for the rest of our lives.
There are 3 paths of fitness (or movement health):
- The Lesser Path
- The Middle Path
- The Greater Path
You know you’re on a specific path based on the answers to the following questions:
- How much movement do you perform?
- How quickly do you perform each movement within one workout?
- How quickly do you increase the intensity (any combination of tempo, reps, sets, weights, and movements) from workout to workout?
- How much soreness do you experience?
- How bad is your pain is when you get hurt and how easily can the pain is fixed?
- How long can you sustain these workouts?
The Lesser Path of Fitness is the one where you become sedentary, wasting away muscle mass, and losing all of the fitness you currently have. You will never have as much muscle mass as you do in your 20’s and 30’s. This point is key for lean women who may be at risk of osteopenia and hip fractures in old age.
The Greater Path of Fitness is the one where you’re constantly pushing your body and you always have an ache or pain somewhere, damaging your joints so badly that you’re candidate for at least two joint replacements by the time you’re 50 years old. This is the path Biggy tempted me down before I remembered.
A fitness bottleneck is an irreversibly damaged joint that limits what movements and workouts I can do. For example, my torn right hip labrum causes be to not back squat more than 95 pounds anymore. I’ve squatted 300 pounds for repetitions. That’s more than a 66% decrease in squatting capacity. When I did squat 95 pounds for 3 sets of 8 reptitions, I had pinching in the front of my hip for 5 days (or 120 hours). This data point proves that I was on the Greater Path, which I have since left.
The Middle Path of Fitness is like Goldilock’s porridge. Just right.
Sitting here, I’m grateful that my body is mostly pain-free, on a daily basis. I’m humbled that I’m alive, and happy to share this time with others. I’m amazed that at 32 years of ago, I’ve remembered enough to be able to move at all with minimal pain.
I hope that if you’re been hurt in the past (or are ever in pain in the future), you don’t forget how special your body is either and you respect it by not abusing it.
If you’ve recovered from at least one significant injury and have been working out, which path are you on? Is that the path that you want to be on? Feel free to share in the comments below.